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School and Our Mama Bear Battles

By Dr. Patty Williams on August 17, 2023

Bright Insight Support Network founder and president Dr. Patty Williams is a trauma therapist and coach who specializes in EMDR, ND-Affirmative DBT, and IFS modalities. Through Bright Insight, she works to counsel, coach, and advocate for gifted, twice-exceptional, and neurodivergent persons, along with other marginalized populations.




School and Our Mama Bear Battles


Oh, I am all sorts of mama bear this morning, and my kids are grown! I guess that's part of being an advocate. Man though- when children are placed at risk for any reason, and particularly at their schools, I regain a level of fight originally reserved for my biological children.


ALL children need protection though. I just cannot fathom a world where we must protect them from their own teachers. It is a reality I am all too familiar with though.


And let me be exceptionally clear here- I know so many amazing teachers who are safe spaces for their students who they accept as their own. So this is not an attack on teachers in general.


THIS IS AN ATTACK THOUGH.


I was reading a post from a mother of a child with an identified learning disability. She shared how her child's teacher only has one rule posted in the classroom reading: “Don't be stupid."


What. The. Actual... Oh. My. Gawd.


I can't believe this. I just cannot believe what I read. If you want to immediately alienate the entire class, do this. If you want children to internalize failure as a personal ineptitude, do this. If you want your gifted and/or special needs child to feel small and incapable, do this. If you want your students to be afraid to ask for help, do this.


As a mother, advocate, educator, therapist, author, presenter, and educated individual with her master's in clinical mental health counseling and a doctorate in developmental psychology, I am beyond floored. This is the type of issue I write about in my book about giftedness and trauma. And never mind giftedness- what about just straight trauma?


This kind of message can be traumatic and is certainly not trauma-informed!


Trauma-informed teaching is a must. This is a minimal requirement for best practice and psychological safety in the classroom. I will explain why.


What happens if a child struggles with an internal dialogue based on their disability and already has a destructive belief that they are somehow stupid?


What if kids on the playground called a student “stupid," and as that student walked back into class they saw this sign and it further mocked them and solidified this message?


What if a child in this class has an abusive home life where they are called stupid instead of hearing their name?


What if a child is simply hard on themselves and does not know how to allow mistakes to inform growth?


My gosh! Despite the teacher's intentions, wherever they are, this rule hurts. This rule also, from a developmental perspective, is abusive, unkind, and undermines the education we want our children to enjoy.


There is no way for a rule like this to be OK. You cannot explain it in a way that makes it OK for adult professionals to use it in any context, especially not with children. If this rule is NOT taken down, I hope this parent lets me know so that I might take further action against this school or district as a professional, parent, and advocate.


This teacher is wrong and this school is wrong for allowing this.


It is not often you will hear me utter this phrase, but SHAME ON THEM.


And to anyone reading this, if you find yourself in a similar situation, my best advice at first (if you cannot have the child moved), is to let your kiddo know that this statement is wrong and unkind. Be transparent and help them know they can advocate for themselves and you can advocate for them also. And to keep the year as positive as possible, help them focus on the value that may present through the curriculum or in the friends they make or the development they enjoy. Do not let this teacher's inability take away their right to a year of growth and wonder.


Additionally, if anyone finds themselves needing further support for an issue such as this, please reach out to me (Dr. Patty) at brightinsightadvocate@gmail.com. I will help you fight.


I will make noise and roar as only a mama bear can.



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